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Episode 200:
Show Notes 


In this 200th podcast episode, Dr Mary Barson and Dr Lucy Burns, esteemed weight management and metabolic health experts, delve into the transformative power of journaling. They kick off the discussion by highlighting the simplicity of journaling tools and practices, emphasising that it can be done with basic materials like pen and paper or electronically. Despite common concerns about privacy or perfectionism, they stress the importance of embracing imperfection and starting wherever one feels comfortable.

Throughout the episode, the doctors share insightful strategies and prompts for effective journaling. Here are the key points they discuss:

Three Wins: Reflect on three positive accomplishments or moments each day, including lessons learned from perceived failures. By celebrating small victories and reframing setbacks as opportunities for growth, individuals can cultivate resilience and gratitude.

SLC Reflection: Use journaling to practice self-reflection, learning from experiences, and cultivating self-compassion. The SLC framework (Self-reflection, Learning, Compassion) encourages individuals to explore their emotions, identify patterns, and respond to challenges with kindness and understanding.

Simple Reframe: Write down negative thoughts and explore alternative, more helpful perspectives on challenging situations. By challenging negative self-talk and reframing limiting beliefs, individuals can shift their mindset and build a more positive outlook on life.

Angry Journaling: Process feelings of anger, hurt, or distress through journaling, acknowledging underlying emotions and finding ways to soothe and heal. By expressing emotions on paper and exploring their root causes, individuals can gain insight into their emotional landscape and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

Thought Dumping: Use journaling as a tool for thought dumping, where individuals can unload their thoughts onto paper, organising and processing them to alleviate mental clutter. This practice can be particularly helpful for improving sleep quality and reducing anxiety by giving the mind a designated space to unload and rest.

As the conversation unfolds, it becomes evident that journaling offers numerous benefits, including improved mental and physical health. Drs Mary and Lucy conclude by encouraging listeners to embrace imperfect journaling as a powerful tool for self-discovery, growth, and overall well-being. With their guidance, listeners are empowered to embark on a journey of reflection, resilience, and positive transformation through the simple act of putting pen to paper.

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Episode 200: 


Dr Mary Barson (0:04) Hello, my lovely friends. I am Dr Mary Barson.

Dr Lucy Burns (0:09) And I'm Dr Lucy Burns. We are doctors and weight management and metabolic health experts.

Both (0:16) And this is the Real Health and Weight Loss podcast!

Dr Lucy Burns (0:23) Hello, lovely friend, Dr Mary here. Very excited to be with you today and I am joined by my fabulous gorgeous lovely one colleague, Dr Lucy. Hello lovely one, how are you?

Dr Lucy Burns (0:36)  I'm good. Thanks, Dr Mary. I'm really, really good. Had a wonderful week and again, looking forward to a great cracker of a week this week. So yeah, thank you.

Dr Mary Barson (0:47)   Wonderful. Today, we're talking about one of my favourite topics, something that I've been doing for years and find so extremely helpful. It's journaling. Indeed. We're big fans of the tool, the wonderful tool for change, both mindset change and flow on physiological change that is the humble journal. Lovely Dr Lucy,  can you talk about reasons why we like journaling.

Dr Lucy Burns (1:20)   Absolutely. So I guess just to, you know, set the scene, we know that for long-lasting weight loss, we need to have strategies that improve our metabolism, which is why, you know, we're always talking about low carb, and, you know, we have podcasts on fasting, and we talk about strength training, and all the things that will improve metabolism and that's all wonderful. But nothing happens if you don't implement it. And so the implementation process is what we call mindset. It's a big topic, it's a vast mindset, and it's not just one recipe for mindset. It's really about using tools that help you implement the things that you want to do. Both when, when life is easy, and when the going gets tough. And so coming up with an array of tools for that is the key and again, we're not a one-trick pony, we often need a lot of different tools for different occasions. And also knowing that as humans, as we keep talking about we are all different and so it's about finding a tool or finding a way to use that tool for you. So journaling is a way of helping you in some ways, learn to know yourself, which again, I guess flows into our philosophy of you know, weight loss is more than a meal plan. It really is a journey of self-discovery and that self-discovery can actually be fun, doesn't have to be hard or tedious, and can be really interesting and fun and learning to know how you tick is really, like it's that whole concept of self-awareness.

Dr Mary Barson (3:09)  That's fraying and the really beautiful thing about weight loss being a self-discovery journey is that we can very, very literally change our brains. Just because we have been stuck in unhelpful thought patterns, unhelpful emotional patterns or unhelpful habits doesn't mean we need to stay there. Our brains can change and you can rewire your brain by changing your thoughts reframing your thoughts, challenging your negative emotions and moving your thoughts and feelings into more helpful directions to this beautiful process of neuroplasticity, you know, London cab drivers have got bigger parts of their brain that correspond to spatial awareness than most people. Violin players have got larger parts of their brain to the cortex that controls their fingers, particularly on the side of their brain that is where they do the violin fingering. And we can also change our brain and remodel, we can strengthen the connections between the neurons, that former helpful thoughts and we can weaken and let go of the neurons and those connections that keep us in unhelpful thought patterns. So, neuroplasticity is your friend and ally and journaling is a really helpful tool to empower that beautiful neuroplasticity.

Dr Lucy Burns (4:44)   Absolutely, absolutely. So I mean at its heart, you know, I thought is just a connection between two nerve cells in your brain, but it's so two nerve cells have connected. If they connect a lot, then that connection is quite deep and if they've just connected, then the connection is quite fine and so I'll often refer to them as you know, the first thought you've ever had, if you first hear something you first think it, it's like this little fine bit of just gossamer really, really delicate thread. If you've thought that sort of light, it's gone back up and down, back up and down, back up and down. It's like tensile steel, it's quite strong. It's easy. It's just there, it becomes a more permanent fixture. But just because it's permanent, doesn't mean it's helpful. And so what we want to do is spend some time cultivating because again, we're the boss of us, we can choose what thoughts we want, we can choose the way we want to think we can choose how we want to behave. But it takes some practice because imagining you've got this first thought, your first thought might be I can't do it because maybe that's what you've always thought, but what if the first thought becomes – What if I could do it? And so you've got this little bit of gossamer there? What if I could do it? And it's just fine, like a bit of fairy floss and then you keep saying, but what if I could do it? What if I could do it, and then that just becomes I could do it. And then that becomes your tensile steel that soon becomes your default for just about everything, I could do that.

Dr Mary Barson (6:21)   That comes to the point where I do that it's part of your identity, it gets so strong, I do that. That is me. Yeah.

Dr Lucy Burns (6:29)   Yeah, absolutely and we have this happening all the time, in ways that can either be helpful to us, or unhelpful to us. And that's what we want to do is we get to choose so we can cultivate the helpful one and by cultivating a minute does, it takes practice, it doesn't, you know, doesn't happen overnight, we'd all love it to happen overnight. Wouldn't you love to happen overnight, where you can just wake up with all the positive thoughts, the mindset that is going to help you for the rest of your life. But, you know, that's, you know, we've become more complicated than that. But it just, it's practice. You know, as you mentioned, the violin player, the violin player's brain, in the violin playing section is big, because they've practised it. It's not the other way around. It's not big and so, therefore, they're a good violin player. It's the other way around that behaviour changes the brain and then, again, the identity is I mean, this, I've just invented a violin player, if you're a professional violin player as part of your identity you need to practice and you know, I don't know what they practice maybe two hours a day, probably more. But that's your identity. So that's what you do. Because you're a violin player, you practice. If your brain says I can't play the violin, but you're not going to practice because you've already decided to come play.

Dr Mary Barson (7:55)   Yes, we have so much control over our destiny and control over our particularly our health and the healthful choices we make. Because we own everything that happens inside our heads. It is all ours, nobody else owns it. You get to decide how you respond to situations you get to decide how you frame your thoughts about situations, you can change the way that you respond to situations, you get to decide it's all you and a beautiful tool in helping you to develop these skills to help you develop the skills to reframe your thoughts, to challenge your unhelpful thoughts, to encourage the more helpful thoughts, to change the way you think about yourself, to change your self-talk to increase your self-kindness, your self compassion, to improve your motivation, a great tool is the humble old journal.

Dr Lucy Burns (9:05)   Absolutely. And I mean from an anatomical level, it makes sense because when you write, you have to have a thought and then what you do that thought then go so that's the connection between two nerves that then that thought then goes via your, you know, essentially, you know, down your arm into your hand, so via your motor cortex, so that you can write out that thought, and then most of us will read what we've written. So it then goes back into your brain fire, you know, the optic section at the back of your brain. So it's reinforced in multiple ways. I mean, it makes so much sense, doesn't it? 

Dr Mary Barson (9:47)   It does. We use journaling a lot as a tool in our momentum membership with our beautiful, beautiful members in our HOTI club, we call them Healthy On The Inside, gorgeous women in our HOTI club. We use journaling a lot and I'm an avid journaler. Lucy, do you like journaling? Perhaps you could just give us a big topic. Journaling is a huge topic like you could take this podcast anyway, we could talk about this for 10 days if we wanted to, but let's, let's keep it to three, like what would be our like our top three or three fabulous ways that we like to use journaling? You can go first got just one? 

Dr Lucy Burns (10:26)   Absolutely. So I guess the first step is, and this, this can sometimes be the barrier for people is the journal, what is the journal? So some people don't want to write anything down again, for fear that maybe somebody will read it one day, which is fair enough. So for me, I don't have a fancy journal. I have a piece of paper and it'll be whatever I find. Other people will find that they don't want to ruin the journal. So perfectionism stops them from starting because you know, what, if it's not right, and other people love, like you miss, I think you'd love a fancy journal.

Dr Mary Barson (11:11)   Not in a perfectionistic way at all. But yes, I do love I love a nice journal. The paper is nice, and it feels good and I get drawn to it. I do. Yeah. But I know people who just like to write on a scrapbook from the supermarket and then they do literally like to burn it after they've written that, like there is no, wherever you're at embrace wherever you're at, it doesn't need to be perfect, it can't be perfect. And you can have a super fancy journal with fountain ink pens if that is your thing. You could have an exercise book from the supermarket, or you could have a scrap piece of paper that you destroy afterwards, scrap pieces of paper that you don't destroy afterwards, just anything, pen, paper, pencil, paper, that's what you need. 

Dr Lucy Burns (11:53)   Absolutely. And I know some people use electronic journals these days with technology. But I still think there is something in our brain about the writing. So if you have the ability to write again, not everyone does for various reasons. But if you have the ability to write, personally, I think that is the way to get the maximal effect. But the other thing also that stops people from starting is that they think they have to do it every day. And you don't, you're the boss of you, you can do whatever you want. If you only want to do it once a month, do that. If you only want to do it once a year, do that. Something is better than nothing. You may find that you start to enjoy it and you get into the habit of cultivating a daily practice but again, don't let that stop you start. Yes. How's that first sentence?

Dr Mary Barson (12:45)   If I want to stop starting? I like it. I like it. Yeah.

Dr Lucy Burns (12:49)   So yeah. So that's just, I think, some parameters to start off with and then what we'll do is maybe yes, three types, I guess of things you might want to write about or consider journaling about. Miss you go first.

Dr Mary Barson (13:04)   I've got a regular journaling practice and I also use journaling. In times of more sort of heated crisis, when I've got some emotional suffering, I will then sort of turn to journaling ad hoc in those as well. So for regular journaling, practice, and you don't have to do this regularly if you don't want to. A really lovely, lovely way to use the journal is this journal prompt, three wins, three daily wins. So weekly wins or just three wins. What you do is, anytime a day that suits you think about that day or the day before and write down three things that you did well, or three things that went well. It's what gratitude is, but it's not quite the same as not saying the things that you have to be grateful for just writing down things that you did, well, three wins and this is a beautiful and I think extremely important nuance here, that you can even journal about your potential failings or things that didn't go so well as a win, if you can find the learning point. So here are three good things that I did today. I had a lovely breakfast with my family, that was lovely. I went for that walk, which was great. I meant to do a 24-hour fast, but I didn't. I was helping out at the school canteen and I ate six doughnuts and now I have learned from this with compassion and kindness that perhaps for me personally, fasting on the days when there's all this processed food around isn't super helpful for me. And so this fictional event, but I have taken the failing, the perceive failing the thing that might be full of really unpleasant thoughts that you know, my inner critic could be screaming at me for being such a loser, such a failure for doing this thing, but viewing it with compassion, viewing it with kindness, I look for the learning. And so with the three daily wins, you either win, or you learn and learning is winning, you can't fail. It's a beautiful thing to do each day. 

Dr Lucy Burns (15:23)   Absolutely. I love that. Learning from your failures; you've embraced the SLC framework that we spend a lot of time teaching, which is really that self-reflection, and learning, and you do it with compassion. Because for so many people, when they make what they perceive to be a mistake, rather than learning from it, they just pretend it didn't happen. And you see, again, Facebook groups are great for this– Oh, don't worry about it tomorrow is another day, let's say and I get that that is helpful. But it's a superficial, helpful level. Because what we want to do is go okay, yeah, I really, really don't want to keep doing that. What do I do differently? How can I learn from it? What What were my triggers? What situation will lead me to this, like, that's the sort of thing that we teach in that self-reflection. It's interesting. So I had, I was having a little run of the three wins, and again, this is why it doesn't have to be perfect. I had a run like I was doing it for a while and as part of that, this was way back. This is a long time ago when I used to as a GP go and visit nursing homes. I remember being particularly cross one night, I was tired, it was the end of the day, and I had to go visit this home is a nursing home and stomping in. And I spent some time because it was still light. And I go into this room to see this lovely old lady in her bed and I mean, it was a very nice aged care facility and it had this beautiful big floor-to-ceiling window and she had a little garden outside her window, and as I looked out, there were these three birdies just fluffing around in the little bird bath that was there, and they were having such a lovely time and they were beautiful. They were these coloured birds, and they were so glorious and I just remember thinking–Oh I'm going to put that in my three things for the day. But if I wasn't sort of always searching for the three things to put in, I could well have just missed this and still been stuck in my you know, Dr Huff a lot being a bit annoyed that I had to go at the end of the day. So it helped me get out of that funk and be able to change my lens. So the lens that I was initially looking through was the poor me I'm tired at the end of the day, and I can't believe I have to do this is so hard to the Oh, look at that fun thing, wow, I wouldn't have seen that. That sort of tiny bit of nature, I wouldn't have seen it if I didn't have to come to this aged care facility. So I went, Ah, you never know what you're going to see. You never know what is what's going to happen. Even though something feels like it's annoying at the start. 

Dr Mary Barson (18:13)   I love that because that little moment of happiness, that little moment of positivity that you had, is healthy. So that in a very, very literal sense, helps improve your physical health, helps improve your heart health, your brain health, your immune system, your metabolic health, all of these beautiful flow-on effects, apart from the fact that also just makes your life better is literally good for your physical health and you were looking for the good things because you journaled about good things. It's fantastic. 

Dr Lucy Burns (18:45)   Yeah. It's interesting there's a you know, concept, which all of you will know about resilience, resilience is our ability to kind of weather the storm so to speak, and we can improve resilience, and there's a phrase called savouring and what it is, is savouring the good times. So we're pretty good as humans at focusing on when things go wrong and ruminating on that and picking every bit apart. And then the good times we go, Oh, that was fun. Move on. By journaling about the good things, which is your three-wins prompt. It is again, it's part of that savouring and strengthening that cognitive bias to be looking for the positives because of our natural bias for lots of us some more than others, but is to always be looking for the negative. Part of our defense mechanism. It's you know, had served a purpose at one stage. So yeah, I love that.

Dr Mary Barson (19:45)   Lovely. So we've got three wins, we've got the SLC. So SLC framework is really, really helpful for journaling. A third one would be a good old, simple reframe. I find this particularly helpful In moments of distress, if I've got a big emotional storm building up, if I'm feeling really horrible about something, maybe even if I've got significant cravings or this can be really helpful. And reframing your thoughts gets better with practice. But this is where you just get pen and paper, you write down what your thoughts are just what is the negative swirling, you know, spicy thoughts that are going through your brain, write them out, just get them out, even that in itself can be so helpful to reduce their intensity. And then after you've done that, give them a bit of poke. Evidence test your thoughts, you know, write down, you know, is this logical? Is this the only way of viewing this particular circumstance, write down other ways in which you could view this circumstance. Write down ways that are perhaps more helpful. Practising your reframing through a journal can be a beautiful way to get out of that unhelpful thought pattern into a more helpful thought pattern quite quickly.

Dr Lucy Burns (21:05)  Absolutely, and again, one of our favourite prompts, what is the most useful thing I can think of here? What is the most useful belief? What is my most useful thought here? You may go all out. I think that though, but that's okay. Because remember, thought is just a connection. You can think whatever you want, and you can cultivate whatever you want and that can become, over time your dominant paradigm, your automatic paradigm, rather than your previous automatic thought process that may not be that helpful to you. Yeah, I totally love this. One of the things that I do is what I call angry journaling. So again, it's like a thought dump and you can use this in a number of ways. So you can use it if you're upset. Anger can be multiple, you know, it's an umbrella term for lots of emotions, it can be you are angry, it can be irritable, you can feel rejected, you can feel hurt, you can feel lonely, any of those, you can journal about that, and just get it out and for me, it's so helpful to get right to the very core, because usually, particularly anger comes down right at the very heart of it is to being hurt. And so then acknowledging that you're hurt and that you need, you know, you need to give yourself time to repair from that hurt or find something that will soothe you from that hurt. But you can also sometimes use thought dumping, particularly if you're not a good sleeper, or you wake up and think all the time you've got one of those really active brains. dumping it down on paper, or organising it into a journal, depending on how your brain works, can be really reassuring for your brain. Because for a lot of people, their brain continually holds this information like important things because it doesn't want you to forget. So it's constantly there. It's like it's in the front of your mind all the time. Bla bla bla, if it's written down, you can actually say to it, it's alright Brian, we've written it down. We're not going to forget, it's okay. You can stand down, let's rest and it'll go – Okay, thank you. So yeah, so many useful things that you can do. I mean, the great thing about journaling, it's free. All you need is a pen and some paper so maybe I'll cost you two bucks. It's not expensive, a tool that is so useful. That takes up very little time. The rewards are so immense that it's almost a no-brainer. 

Dr Mary Barson (23:42) That's it. So go off and imperfectly journal, beautiful people, your brain and body will definitely thank you.

Dr Lucy Burns (23:49)   Indeed, indeed. Alright, gorgeous ones. See you all next week. Bye for now. 

Dr Lucy Burns (23:55)  The information shared on the Real Health and Weight Loss podcast, including show notes and links, provides general information only. It is not a substitute, nor is it intended to provide individualised medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor can it be construed as such. Please consult your doctor for any medical concerns.

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